SpeculativeEdu

SpeculativeEdu Survey: first indications

July 3, 2019

Ingi Helgason sums up early indications from our SpeculativeEdu survey on the Speculative Design education landscape.

During 2019 we are carrying out an ongoing survey of European educational practices that include a Speculative Design or related approach. This article presents the early findings and indications that are emerging from the data so far. The survey remains open for further contributions and we will present a more thorough analysis in a few months’ time. 

As part of our study we would very much like to hear from educators who have an interest in this area as well as from those who are already presenting courses. Some of the questions ask for current practices and methods, but others ask for opinions and viewpoints about the directions that this field could take in the future. For this reason many of the questions are optional, and respondents are welcome to answer only the questions that are relevant to them. All opinions are valuable to us. We are very grateful for the input from the respondents so far.

If you have not yet completed the survey and wish to participate, the link is here.

The Questions

The survey asks for data about courses and educational approaches that are currently running in order to give a picture of the educational landscape in Europe. It also asks about opinions on the future directions for Speculative Design approaches.

Courses

So far there are responses from several countries, including Croatia, Demark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Most of the courses are undergraduate (bachelors) level, but postgraduate level is also well represented. There are also examples of mixed level workshop and summer school type events.

In describing the teaching approach, many respondents used several terms, with Speculative Design, Critical Design and Design Fiction reported in approximately equal numbers. Other terms used include Design Futures, Adversarial Design, Critical Practices and Near Future Design. Courses are situated mainly in disciplines across a range of design practices, including graphic, product, fashion and interaction, with some courses also in other disciplines such as information technology and computer science.

Assessment strategies are varied, but practical creative work seems to be the dominant method, with both individual and group projects mentioned. Theoretical essays are also used for assessment, usually in combination with practical or case study work. The survey also asked participants to suggest appropriate assessment metrics within a Speculative Design approach. Many of the responses mentioned methods that involve communication and public participation, such as presentations, exhibitions and displays. Criticality, justification and ability to reflect also emerge as assessment themes. 

Motivations

The survey asked about the motivations for developing the courses, and why Speculative Design was used. Themes that emerged from the responses include:

Educational Resources and Methods

Another question in the survey asked whether, in the context of a design curriculum, Speculative Design should be fully defined or open. The majority of answers so far clearly favour a mostly, but not fully, open approach. Comments by respondents mention the benefits of diversity in approaches and definitions, but also the usefulness of explanation of specific methods. In the questions relating to plans for future curriculum and resource development, respondents made comments around further development of varied practical resources including handbooks, libraries and toolkits, and also structures, frameworks and guidelines. 

The survey asked for suggestions for teaching resources, including media and authors, and also critics of the approach. In addition, the survey asked for examples of the use of Speculative Design approaches in professional practice or industry. Many suggestions were provided and these are in the process of being collated to share. Further suggestions will be very welcome.